Africa Needs Two Year Debt Relief To Fend Off Virus: Ramaphosa

South African President Cyril M. Ramaphosa.
Photo credit: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell, under Creative Commons license

Africa would require a two-year debt halt to help fend off the coronavirus pandemic, according to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, who made such a statement in a meeting with leaders from neighboring African countries. Among persons who participated in that meeting, which was held virtually, included Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Benkhalfa Abderrahmane of Algeria, Tidjane Thiam of Côte d'Ivoire, and Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda.

Ramaphosa asserted that that Africa needs a debt standstill for 2 years to help fight an economic crunch resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, even as the World Bank and the IMF have already agreed to a 9-month debt standstill. The debt standstill in this case refers to interest payments on borrowed money as is the norm. Notably, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently provided $3.4 billion in emergency funding for Nigeria, one of Africa's leading economies.

"While the numbers of infections in Africa at this time is lower than elsewhere in the world, we expect that the peak of infections in Africa is still to come," Ramaphosa said in a statement. "This virus does not respect borders, nor distinctions of nationality, Considering the social and economic linkages between our countries, when one of us is vulnerable, we are all vulnerable," he said. According to Ramaphosa, one of the biggest challenges faced by African nations is access to personal protection equipment to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Ramaphosa recently announced a $26 billion relief package from the South African government. The relief package notably equals about 10% of South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP).